Since the petty biographical details of my life are rather insignificant (and private) I'll just start with where it becomes remotely interesting... When I started to really play music with the passion that defines me. That would be Los Angeles - circa 1986. I had played earlier, in elementary school, but nothing that would indicate the direction my life would take in later years. It wasn't until I moved to Charlotte, NC in the summer of '88 that I started to realize that all the practice was paying off, and I was getting decent at this drumming stuff.
My high school years were much like any others, I played with several garage bands, learned a lot about what sucks, a little about what doesn't, and kept on plugging. My best friend Jason was a fantastic sax player, and had begun learning the guitar a couple years earlier. Then he picked up a bass out of necessity one day at a jam, and it happened. Jason was a natural bass player. We started to get a reputation as the real-deal rhythm section around school. Enter Matt Parker, lead guitarist... He had been playing in clubs since he was 15, already had a successful band, and heard about Jason & I. He came to one of our gigs, and after we jammed a week or two later, it was on. We were 16, all of us, and when that combination came together, it forever changed all of our lives.
Fast forward a couple years... After graduation, I attempted to make good on a partial music scholarship to Appalachian State. I was a percussion performance major in the music department, and strangely enough, I never got a chance to actually play my drum kit. Jason had reached the same conclusion - it was time to get back to playing music that mattered.
We left school, got our first apartment with Matt and his girlfriend, and that was the beginning of MonkeyGrass. We were barely able to pay rent, and played our ASSES off. This would become a pattern for the next 4-5 years. Work some crappy 2nd shift job, get off work, and hit the warehouse until dawn. 5-6 days a week, most of the time. Eventually, Jason and I both got jobs at a local music store, furthering our ambitions and giving us access to cheap gear and lots of great information. I can't emphasize enough when I say it was during this crucial period that we learned how to be a band. We were already fairly accomplished players on our own. What all that rehearsing taught us, was how to put ego, volume, and personal desires aside and concentrate on making sure the group sounded the best it could. All of those lessons stay with me to this very day.MonkeyGrass had a great run. We recorded 2 albums, numerous demos, we played all over the east coast and even had our own bus at one point. Playing CBGB's with your best friends in the world was the realization of a dream we had shared since we were 16 and worshiping posters of our favorite rock stars. We toured from New York to Miami. We lost our asses on the road, ended up in court with our sleazebag of an "agent" (and I use that term very loosely) and lost our asses again. Two of the other band members had enough, they wanted out after 5 years of killing ourselves with nothing but some good songs and $15,000 of debt to show for it. They left; Jason, Matt, and I found a new singer (our good friend Kevin Mann) and tried to carry the torch. After another year of trying, it was obvious that MonkeyGrass had its day, and it was time to move on.
Jason and I formed another project (Pip) and recorded another album. We released our debut album, Back Forty, and people were digging it. We had some great gigs, shared the stage with Grammy-winning artists, and did some light touring. Alas, the singer was more interested in trying to sell his songs than touring or promoting a band, so after 18 months or so, we called it quits. But that Pip album had shown me how much I had grown as a player and producer/arranger, and I was more determined than ever to succeed at this game.
It was during this time in my life that I was introduced to one of my greatest and closest friends, L. Scott Brown. Scott eventually ended up marrying my sister, and fathering my beautiful niece Madeline. A friend of mine from Carolina Crown and the ASU drumline was leaving a popular local band named Candy Pig. He casually mentioned to the guys in the group that if they were looking for a replacement, they should check me out. A couple weeks later, MonkeyGrass was playing out the last few gigs on the books and Scott and John Carver (vox - Candy Pig) showed up. After accosting me in the bathroom during a set break (mid-stream, no less) and convincing me that they were really into my playing and on the verge of great things, I agreed to come check out what they were all about. About 2 weeks later we met up at my warehouse, and the chemistry was obvious. I joined Candy Pig on the spot and we spent the next 4-5 years rocking our ASSES off. We fought, we rocked, we toured, and we fought some more. We partied with rock stars and actors, and rocked crowds of thousands. We broke up, and got back together (3 times). We recorded an absolutely brilliant album for a major label that never got released b/c of the various personal issues that eventually destroyed the band forever. But the connection between Scott and I would continue to grow and it would culminate in my most involved project – nativeRADIO.
The nativeRADIO years were intense. A friend of Jason's introduced him to a singer named Thom Crumpton. Thom and his guitarist Mark were looking for a rhythm section to flesh out their acoustic songwriting project. I got the call from Jason, and the 4 of us got together for the first time in the basement of my house. Within 6 hours, we had 4 songs put together and knew we had something special on our hands. Meanwhile, Scott was living with me in that house, and he woke up one Sunday morning to the sounds of a very early nativeRADIO lineup jamming in the basement underneath him. He was entranced with this new group we were putting together and asked if he could join the jam. Seeing as Thom played acoustic, and Mark played electric (both fine players) we told him sorry, but we kind of had the guitar stuff covered. Well, I happened to record those early jam sessions on a cassette deck I kept in the basement. Scott snuck down into the band room one day while I was at work, popped that stereo cassette into his 4-track recorder and proceeded to spend the entire day adding guitar parts to our songs!! He mixed it down to 2 tracks again and put it back in the cassette player in the basement - and said nothing. The next time the band got together, we wanted to listen back to what we had recorded the week before. Suddenly, these incredible guitar and string parts were blended in perfectly with what we were doing. The other guys seemed confused by all this and the light went on in my head. I knew instantly what had happened. When I went to open the door and go get him, he was standing outside the door with a grin on his face. I asked him if he had recorded on our tapes and he simply said "I heard these great melodies while I was listening to your songs. I couldn't get them out of my head, so I had to record them. What do you think?" We let him in, and nativeRADIO was born.
That lineup lasted only a few months. We wrote like crazy, had some really cool local shows, and the band was getting a great buzz around town. Our demos were getting airplay on local and college radio, and increasingly more people were showing up at our gigs. Suddenly, Mark decided that he'd gone far enough with the music and wanted to pursue his budding acting career. The remaining four of us kept at it, and man - we had a blast. That band was FUN. We added percussionist Kennon Knight for some of the bigger gigs, and continued to write. After a year or so, it was apparent that we had a full length album in us, and approached our good friend/engineer/producer/electronics guru David Black @ Old House Studios in the summer of 2001 about doing an album. David had worked with us on the Candy Pig sessions, and we had a great mutual respect for each others talents. We brought in some demos, and he was blown away. He got 110% on board and we spent most of the next 8 months locked in the studio, recording Hope For The Space Age. Sadly, David was losing his battle with Hep-C, and his health began to decline rapidly. We were able to get 5 of the 10 tracks mixed and mastered, and knew that we really couldn't keep asking David to continue in his current condition. We decided to release the first 5 songs as an EP, and go back and finish mixing the rest of the album when we could. Then the first tragedy struck - David passed away after a 20 year fight with Hepatitis. Combined with Jason's growing business as a General Contractor, Scott and Janine having a baby and trying to make ends meet as a musician, and myself getting married and becoming a father to a wonderful step-child - we all lost focus in what we were doing and Jason was the first to vocalize it. He left the group; Scott and I tried several lineups and players to replace him, but it simply wasn't the same. We knew that nativeRADIO was falling apart. It was a hearbreaking moment for me, to put this amazing music down after so much work. But instead of throwing in the towel, I became more determined than ever to make a living with my music. I decided that I was going to quit my IT job and focus on playing full time, with the support of my wife and newly-made family behind me. I brushed up my songbook, woodshedded like crazy, and started auditioning around. I hooked up with several local bands, and networked like crazy. Gigs led to more gigs, which led to sessions, which led to more teaching, and it was all starting to come together.
So after several years of going off on my own and making a decent living teaching lessons and playing in various dance/rock bands, the four of us realized that we were all still great friends. Scott and I had been making a living as full time players for quite some time at this point. Thom and Scott had an acoustic side project together, and we would all get together and ride our motorcycles on the weekends. Even though we weren't making music quite like we used to, life was good to us. Each doing well in our respective careers, we would occasionally get together and spend the afternoon or weekend jamming and writing. No pressure, no goals, just 4 great friends making great music together because it was what we loved to do. The friendships had survived, the itch was always there, and we started talking about those 2" nativeRADIO tapes that were sitting in my closet - unmixed and unreleased. We knew it was the best work we had ever done, and that we owed it to ourselves to finish it for no reason other than it simply had to be done. I called an old classmate, Chris Garges (who had assumed control of Old House Studios after David's death), about transferring the 2" tape to digital files so that we could begin work on the tracks again. Then, complete and utter life-shattering disaster struck again. Jason was killed October 21st, 2007 in a freak motorcycle accident.
The rest of that year was spent simply trying to breathe. Words still don't work here, so I won't use them.
At that point in my life, I was a fairly successful professional musician, touring with a top-tier regional dance/cover group. But the bottom fell out that day, and playing 80's music and dance tunes to a bunch of drunks in smoky bars and nightclubs just felt wrong to me. I wasn't making music. I was simply regurgitating it over and over again every night. Even though I was making a good living doing what I loved, I wasn't playing music that meant anything more than a paycheck to me. Something Jason would never allow himself to do. When he made music, he meant it. What we always wrote off as stubborn ole J suddenly had a lot more meaning to me...
It was at the funeral that Matt Parker surfaced again. He had moved away to the South Carolina coast nearly 7 years earlier, and lost contact with all of us. I knew he was still playing (this I always knew of my old friend), but that was about it. Perhaps it was J's touch from beyond; perhaps it was inevitable that we reconnect again later in life... I don't know. And honestly, I don't care. The group I was with was winding down and I was wondering what was next on this crazy rollercoaster ride of life. Matt was having drummer problems, and I suppose what happened next was beyond improbable, it was downright crazy. I decided that I was going to re-dedicate myself to playing music that mattered - music that I believed in, and I accepted the gig with Matt in his band PsychWard, even though he and the band live and work 4 hours away in Surfside Beach, SC.
After nearly three years of back and forth to the beach, Matt has moved onto his new project, One Dragon, and I am back in Charlotte again. As much as I enjoyed my time performing with Matt and Psych Ward at the coast, all good things must come to an end, and my life here in the Queen City has called me back home. I am finding a more active, stimulating scene here now than the one I left years ago, and I am very excited about the future and the multiple projects I have going on for the upcoming year! Maciej and I are playing together in the all-new All Out Blues Band, as well as collaborating with Singer/Pianist Colby Dobbs and bassist David Sentendry in the Colby Dobbs Band. When I'm not busy with one of my groups, I love the challenge of sub/fill-in gigs with local artists, and I am also working on engineering/producing LS Brown's upcoming debut solo album.
As an addendum to this (insanely long, boring and self-indulgent) story, those 2" nativeRADIO tapes have been transferred to the digital medium and Scott, Thom and I are hard at work bringing those recordings back to life. We are all excited to finish mixing HFTSP nearly 10 years after it was originally recorded. I'm doing regular session and live work, often more than I can handle. I am again re-energized, re-focused, and on top of my game. I am busier and more fulfilled musically than I have been in years. From tragedy springs new life, and I am determined to grab every opportunity and wring every drop of life, love, and passion from them. No more wasted time!